What the hell happened to James L. Brooks? No one is better at doing comedy about failure, which is why How Do You Know
is so frustrating—it somehow fails at failing. Here we meet two individuals undergoing upheaval: Lisa (Reese Witherspoon), a professional softball player cut from her team, and George (Paul Rudd), an executive under indictment for crimes his Bernie Madoff-like father and boss (Jack Nicholson) may have committed. Unmoored, Lisa throws herself into a relationship with Matty (Owen Wilson), a tomcatting major league pitcher, while George in turn becomes smitten with Lisa and pursues her as a way of avoiding the sword dangling over his head. But this film doesn't know what it wants to be, or how to communicate its themes, so it pounds and pounds away at them. Brooks has a body of work he can be proud of—perhaps he should pack it in before he lends his name to more embarrassments like this.